Wallpaper is back with a bang

Forget plain-painted minimalism. Pattern-mad London Design Festival is predicting a riot... on our walls.
Wallpaper is not just back on the agenda — it has top billing, and what a difference a decade makes. Nurtured by Britain’s world-class art colleges and enabled by technology, wallpaper designers have techniques unheard of in the Nineties when minimalism edged wallpaper into the shadows. London today is pattern crazy, with a creative revolution under way on the catwalk and on the walls. 

This is all good news for tired homes that need wallpaper’s instant fashion fix. You don’t need to paper every room — in contrast to the rest of your painted home, why not just wallpaper your bedroom for a luxurious change of atmosphere? Or you might brighten   your hallway with metallic-surface-patterned paper to add light, or stripes for height.

You could cover the dining room with a cosy, claret-coloured damask, or bathe with toile — so many people go for bathroom tiles but paper is cheaper and adds interest that does not have to be permanent. Finally, zap the home office with an on-trend geometric, or have fun with printed pictorial paper in the downstairs loo.

The wallpaper elite — 29 of them — are on a roll at a fabulous show open now at the respected londonprint studio in Harrow Road, W10, which has been used for 40 years by many artists to print, show and promote their work. Called Wallpaper: Artists’ Interior Worlds, this is a free spectacle for the London Design Festival.

Yes, even artists are doing wallpapers, including Jake and Dinos Chapman, who have been inspired by Goya. Other artists have experimented with wood blocks, put portraits on to wallpaper, or made a political statement. “Digital techniques mean new designs, but the handmade is also valued,” says John Phillips, founder of the studio.
Technology is giving the wallpaper industry new momentum. This 'Momentum Sumi' covering is available at Harlequin.

Here come the girls
More to the domestic point is a fine array by numerous sensational wallpaper girls, including Jocelyn Warner, Linda Florence, Tracy Kendall, Lizzie Allen, Claire Coles, Belinda Sharples and Deborah Bowness, while down from Scotland are the subversive Glasgow boys, Timorous Beasties. “Wallpaper now is truly art,” adds Phillips (www.londonprintstudio.org.uk).

London’s fashion duo Eley Kishimoto are showing at the Decorex trade show, which opens on Sunday at Syon Park, with public admittance on Tuesday afternoon, for £30. Their global brand of pattern panache is crashing into wallpaper with an eye-watering assembly of mad motifs. Also showing in the Decorex tent of top décor is Maxine Hall, with her cool new Blackpop label, redolent of faded châteaux, with distressed damask and iridescent butterflies. 

London Design Festival, in full swing, puts wallpaper in your face all over the capital. Some designers are a little unlikely, such as a trio of Swedish architects, Claesson Koivisto Rune, at designjunction, for Engblad & Co (www.engbladco.com). The designjunction show, at The Sorting Office in New Oxford Street, WC1, is £10 on the door, or £8 online. Use code ES241 to get two tickets for the price of one at thedesign junction.co.uk.

Also off the pattern piste is a frenzied mash-up of indie motifs by Dutch wild card Studio Job, showing with Pad Home at Earls Court, SW5, during the 100% Design trade show opening today. 

At Tent, the big show in east London opening tomorrow — £10 on the door —a dozen young designers are pushing pattern for walls, including the New Wave co-operative. In the adjacent Super Brands show, Graham & Brown has chosen flashy Northern Rose as its signature for next year. Barbara Hulanicki, founder of the iconic Biba Sixties fashion brand, is the star of a new V&A book, The Biba Years. At 78, she’s putting on to paper her Op Art from a 1965 jumpsuit. Biba wallpaper costs £60 a roll, exclusively from grahamandbrown.com.


Go wild: bold prints are a fast and effective way to instantly update the atmosphere in your home

The Design Centre Chelsea Harbour, SW10, wallpaper heartland, is putting on its Focus mega show during the design festival. This explosion of chic décor opens to the trade on Sunday, with a full-on free-to-enter public day next Wednesday, including launches, talks, teas, and free transport from Sloane Square Hotel. Stop off en route at Osborne & Little and its opposite number in King’s Road, Designers Guild, famous worldwide for glamorous wallpaper.

Major trends 
Blue runs strongly as a relaxing colour theme, from moody indigo to the turquoise of a Southern sea, while you can detect an artist’s hand in carefully painted flowers and floral scenes, and in some showrooms lush tropical foliage evokes the rainforest. 

Archives have been cleverly re-worked into scenes for modern life, or — only for the pattern pioneer — get visual shocks from the new fragmented patterns with their jagged lines and triangles. Mid-century modern fans should go to see the Mini Moderns installation at the Festival Hall shop on the South Bank, with a retro portfolio themed around Festival Hall Fifties designs (www.southbankcentre.co.uk; www.minimoderns.com).

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